The 1992 Ajmer Serial Gang Rape and Blackmailing Case is considered one of the most scandalous crimes in India. Took place in the Ajmer city of Rajasthan, hundreds of young girls were involved in the scandal, some college students, some still in school. Navajyoti, a local paper, broke the news of the scandal after publishing some nude images and reporting on school students being blackmailed by local gangs. During the investigation of the case, police gave in to political pressure since the main accused, Farooq Chishtee, was president of the Ajmer Indian Youth Congress and a Khadim of Ajmer Sharif Dargah. The court eventually charged 18 serial offenders; four among the eight were acquitted in 2001 after being convicted for life. Several comparisons have been made between this case and the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal that took place in the town of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Northern England from the late 1980s until the 2010s.
An Incident that Shook Ajmer
In 1992, a group of local influential men targeted some college and school going girls to blackmail them after exploiting them sexually. Most of the victims were from Ajmer’s Sophia Senior Secondary School. These girls were photographed in objectionable manners and were even raped multiple times. After the incident was reported in the media, it came as a blot to the city that hosts the famous Ajmer Sharif Dargah and is synonymous with the mysticism and philosophy of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Reportedly, the first victim was a girl from Ajmer’s Sophia Senior Secondary School who fell prey to the main accused, Farooq Chishtee, who implicated her into his trap. After taking obscene photos of her, Farooq Chishtee started blackmailing the girl.
Girls were blackmailed after clicking inappropriate photos, and gang members used victims as bait to bring their friends into the act, creating a chain reaction. After the first girl fell prey to the main accused, Farooq Chishtee, he forced her to befriend him with her other classmates. Another girl would eventually be raped, exploited sexually, and have her picture taken at a farmhouse, so the cycle continued. The gang went on to expand their activities, resulting in the victimisation of hundreds of girls in Ajmer. According to sources, most of the crime happened at a farmhouse in Ajmer.
It All Started With a Love Affair
According to a story, the basis of the sensational sex scandal was a love affair between a class nine girl and a boy from a local affluent family. Later, a group of friends of the boy took obscene photos of the two and used them to blackmail the girl into introducing them to her classmates. According to reports, since then, the gang had managed to expand its operations to include nearly 200 schoolgirls and college students. India Today
Media Coverage and Investigation
On a sleepy morning in April 1992, the Ajmer city woke up to a report published by Deenbandhu Chaudhary, the editor of Navajyoti, a local newspaper in Ajmer. This report exposed a system of deceit and exploitation. According to Chaudhary, despite knowing about the scandal as long as a year before the story broke, local law enforcement authorities stalled the investigation. He said that local politicians tried to stall legal action stating that the accusers came from influential “khadim” (caretaker) families of the dargah and that legal action would lead to inter-communal tension. He said,
It was difficult to decide whether to publish the photographs or not.”
Chaudhary said they finally decided to press forward with the story since that was the only way to spur the local administration into action. He said,
Finally, we decided to go ahead because it was the only way to shake the administration and police out of their slumber.”
Soon after Chaudhary’s report was published, the news of the incident sent shockwaves throughout the town, and angry citizens staged public demonstrations during a three-day bandh. After being forced to take action due to public pressure, the BJP Government ordered an investigation, but state BJP Secretary Onkar Singh Lakhotia admitted –
The action has come too late.”
Following this report, several subsequent stories about widespread blackmail and exploitation started appearing. Ultimately, eight of the accused were charged in an FIR filed by the police. An investigation led to the arrest of 18 men in total, and tensions in the town ran high for several days. As former deputy inspector general of police in Ajmer retired DGP Omendra Bhardwaj said, many more victims were kept from stepping forward because of the social class of the accused. A grim realisation was that many of the victims, who were young and vulnerable, had already taken their lives. Following what happened next was another tale of political influence and incompetence on the part of the administration. What followed next was many victims, who were supposed to testify, turned hostile, and there were only a few victims who came forward. Reportedly, the case is still open.
A Social Stigma
Following the incident, there was such an overwhelming smell of social stigma and ostracism that girls of the town were perceived to be victims of the gangs as it was estimated that there were several hundred victims. There was such a bad situation in Ajmer that prospective grooms, who were supposed to marry Ajmer girls, would go to offices of newspapers to determine if the girl they intended to marry was one of ‘them.’ People used to say they needed to find out more about the girl if she was from Ajmer. The Indian Express According to Santosh Gupta, who worked as a reporter at the vernacular paper’s office in Ajmer, visitors would land up at their office and ask on prospective brides,
Is she one of those girls?”
Gupta, who also broke the story in 1992, says,
They all wanted to know if the woman they were marrying was among the girls exploited in the blackmail scandal. The details of the case spread through word of mouth really fast back then.”
In all, 18 people were found to be accused in the case. Those 18 accused of rape and abduction belonged to the caretakers of the Sufi shrine of Ajmer Sharif Dargah Moinuddin Chishti. The police found Farooq Chishtee as the main accused in the case; Farooq was president of the Ajmer Youth Congress. Other accused Anwar Chishtee was Ajmer Indian National Congress’s joint secretary, and Nafis Chishtee served as its vice-president. Moijullah alias Puttan, Ishrat Ali, Anwar Chishtee, and Shamshuddin alias Meradona were among the accused who were also sentenced by the court. In 2012, absconder Salim Chishtee was arrested. According to the police, another absconder named Alamas is still at large. On 4 January 2012, the arrest of Saiyed Saleem Chishtee, one of the accused from Khalid Mohalla in Ajmer, was made by the Rajasthan police’s Special Operations Group (SOG). On 15 February 2018, Suhail Ghani Chisty, the prime accused in the 1992 Ajmer sex scandal, surrendered after 26 years. A resident of Khadim Mohalla (Dargah Bazar) in Ajmer, Suhail, who was one of the most wanted in the scandal, surrendered before the district court in Ajmer. Deccan Herald
Trial and Conviction
It was challenging for the police and women-focused NGOs to build a case against the perpetrators as most victims didn’t want to come forward; however, the photographs and videos used to blackmail the victims assisted in identifying the accused and building the case against them. The investigation identified thirty victims; out of these, about a dozen filed suits, and ten backed out, and there were only two victims who pursued the case. After the 18 accused were charged with abduction and gang-rape under the Indian Penal Code and Indecent Representation of Women (prohibition), the main accused, Farooq Chistee, was later declared mentally unstable during his trial, three accused committed suicide in jail, while another accused named Saleem Nafees was arrested by the police in 2012. Deccan Herald While the Rajasthan High Court upheld the decision in 2013, it reduced the length of the sentence from life imprisonment to the period the accused had already served. In 2014, besides dismissing the state’s appeals, the Supreme Court also dismissed the appeals of the convicts. The Times of India The bench of Justices N. Santosh Hegde and BP Singh ruled –
Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the view that the ends of justice would be met if the sentence is reduced to ten years rigorous imprisonment.”
The Quiet Suffering of the Victims
Several of the victims were daughters of IAS officers or IPS officers, and most of them were from affluent Hindu families. In this horrific case, the victims have suffered silently, which has been the most disturbing part. Many rape victims experienced harassment and threats following the rape, without support from social groups or family members. About six victims are alleged to have committed suicide, according to police investigations. As a result of threats, Ajmer Mahila Samooh withdrew from taking up the victims’ cause. In Ajmer, local tabloids created quite a sensation during that period. Many victims were allegedly also blackmailed further by these tabloids and local papers after being exploited, blowing the town’s conscience away even more. Having access to the explicit photographs of the girls, the owners and publishers sought money from the families of the girls in order to conceal them.
Nobody Wants to Talk About the Case
The 1992 Ajmer Rape Scandal stunned the country as a whole. As protests spread across the city, communal tension escalated. Bandhs were observed for three days and news of widespread blackmail and exploitation started to enter the media. Additionally, police were criticized for failing to act even after they had been made aware of the ongoing abuse. In addition, the local politicians had warned that taking action against the accused would result in massive communal tensions, which had stalled the case. According to Musabbir Hussain, joint secretary of the Anjuman Committee that oversees the Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Ajmer,
It’s a case that nobody in Ajmer wants to talk about because of the nature of the crime. It’s a blot on our city’s history.”
In Popular Media
In 2021, a web series titled ‘Ajmer 1992’ was announced based on the 1992 Ajmer Rape Scandal. Directed by Pushpendra Singh and starring Sahil Mishra, a film and theatre actor from Bhopal, in a key role, the web series is expected to start streaming from December 2021. The Free Press Journal